Current Affairs Analysis

14th December 2017 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Scorpene-class submarine Kalvari; SANKALP Project; Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994; Legatum Prosperity Index 2017; Dredging Corporation of India (DCI); Global E-waste Monitor 2017; Amarnath cave shrine not a silent zone; International Court of Justice; Sri Lanka formally hands over Hambantota Port to China; What is Buenos Aires Declaration on Women and Trade? What is VoLTE? e-mail IDs in Hindi; Indian Railways E-Procurement System (IREPS); etc.
By IT's Current Affairs Analysis Team
December 14, 2017


Government Schemes & Policies

  • Government inks $250 million Loan Agreement with World Bank for SANKALP Project

Issues related to Health & Education

  • SC leaves it to government to regulate ads on pre-natal sex tests on internet


  • India ranks 100 in global prosperity index, closes gap up with China
  • DCI and NHAI sign MoU to facilitate supply of sand for highways construction work

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • UN warns of severe health risks from electronic/electrical waste in India
  • Amarnath cave shrine not a silent zone, NGT clarifies

Bilateral & International Relations

  • Pakistan files counter in ICJ
  • Sri Lanka formally hands over Hambantota Port to Chinese firms on 99-Year Lease
  • India votes against Buenos Aires Declaration on Women and Trade

Defence & Security Issues

  • Scorpene-class submarine Kalvari inducted into Navy

Science & Technology

  • Bharti Airtel launches VoLTE services in Chennai

Key Facts for Prelims

  • Rajasthan becomes first in country to offer e-mail IDs in Hindi
  • Indian Railways E-Procurement System (IREPS)

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Government Schemes & Policies

Government inks $250 million Loan Agreement with World Bank for SANKALP Project

The Union Government has signed US $250 million loan agreement with World Bank for “Skills Acquisition and Knowledge Awareness for Livelihood Promotion” (SANKALP) Project to support livelihood.


  • World Bank’s financing arm International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) will provide this loan.

About SANKALP Project:

  • SANKALP is a Centrally sponsored outcome focused scheme marking shift in government’s implementation strategy in vocational education and training from inputs to results.
  • SANKALP will provide market relevant training to 3.5 crore youth.


Objectives of the Project:

  • The Objective of the project is to enhance institutional mechanisms for skills development and increase access to quality and market-relevant training for the work force.
  • It is aimed at institutional reforms and improving quality & market relevance of skill development training programs in long and short term Vocational Education and Training (VET).
  • It is also aimed at channelizing energy of youth in proper education, skill and jobs.
  • It will provide market relevant training to youths and enhance their employability potential to maximum extent possible.

What it does?

  • The scheme will provide the required impetus to National Skill Development Mission, 2015 and its various sub missions. It is aligned to flagship programs of Government such as Make in India and Swachhta Abhiyan and aim at developing globally competitive workforce for domestic and overseas requirements.

Key result areas for project:

  • Institutional Strengthening at National and State Levels for Planning, Improved Quality and Market Relevance of Skills Development Programs; Delivering, and Monitoring High-Quality Market-Relevant Training; Improved access to and completion of skills training for female trainees and other disadvantaged groups and Expanding skills training through private-public partnerships (PPPs).
[Ref: PIB]


Issues related to Health & Education

SC leaves it to government to regulate ads on pre-natal sex tests on internet

Nine years after it took upon itself the task of regulating ads and content relating to sex-determination tests banned under local law, the Supreme Court has now washed its hands of the matter and left it to the government to take care of such issues in consultation with the search engines.


  • The court said that they don’t have the expertise to deal with this.

What’s the issue?

  • The case had begun in 2008, when an activist filed a public interest litigation (PIL) to get the search engines to abide by local law which bans such tests to arrest the falling sex ratio in the country.
  • The government had then set up a nodal body to act as the interface with the search engines on such complaints.
  • The court had passed umpteen orders in which the court warned the engines that they should either follow local law or shut shop.

About PCPNDT Act, 1994:

Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994 is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted to stop female foeticides and arrest the declining sex ratio in India. The act banned prenatal sex determination.


  • The main purpose of enacting the act is to ban the use of sex selection techniques before or after conception and prevent the misuse of prenatal diagnostic technique for sex selective abortion.
  • Offences under this act include conducting or helping in the conduct of prenatal diagnostic technique in the unregistered units, sex selection on a man or woman, conducting PND test for any purpose other than the one mentioned in the act, sale, distribution, supply, renting etc. of any ultra sound machine or any other equipment capable of detecting sex of the foetus.

Main provisions in the act are:

  • The Act provides for the prohibition of sex selection, before or after conception.
  • It regulates the use of pre-natal diagnostic techniques, like ultrasound and amniocentesis by allowing them their use only to detect:
  1. Genetic abnormalities
  2. Metabolic disorders
  3. Chromosomal abnormalities
  4. Certain congenital malformations
  5. Haemoglobinopathies
  6. Sex linked disorders.
  • No laboratory or centre or clinic will conduct any test including ultrasonography for the purpose of determining the sex of the foetus.
  • No person, including the one who is conducting the procedure as per the law, will communicate the sex of the foetus to the pregnant woman or her relatives by words, signs or any other method.
  • Any person who puts an advertisement for pre-natal and pre-conception sex determination facilities in the form of a notice, circular, label, wrapper or any document, or advertises through interior or other media in electronic or print form or engages in any visible representation made by means of hoarding, wall painting, signal, light, sound, smoke or gas, can be imprisoned for up to three years and fined Rs. 10,000.
  • The Act mandates compulsory registration of all diagnostic laboratories, all genetic counselling centres, genetic laboratories, genetic clinics and ultrasound clinics.

Act amended in 2003:

Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994 (PNDT), was amended in 2003 to The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition Of Sex Selection) Act (PCPNDT Act) to improve the regulation of the technology used in sex selection.

Implications of the amendment are

  • Amendment of the act mainly covered bringing the technique of pre conception sex selection within the ambit of the act
  • Bringing ultrasound within its ambit
  • Empowering the central supervisory board, constitution of state level supervisory board
  • Provision for more stringent punishments
  • Empowering appropriate authorities with the power of civil court for search, seizure and sealing the machines and equipments of the violators
  • Regulating the sale of the ultrasound machines only to registered bodies.
[Ref: The Hindu]



India ranks 100 in global prosperity index, closes gap up with China

India was ranked 100th among 149 countries on the list of prosperous countries released as part of The Legatum Prosperity Index 2017.


What is Legatum Prosperity Index?

  • Legatum Prosperity Index is an annual ranking developed by the London-based Legatum Institute.
  • It is world’s leading global measure of economic and social wellbeing that studies 104 indicators under these categories: Economic Quality, Governance, Business Environment, Personal Freedom, Safety and Security, Social Capital, Education, Health and Natural Environment.
  • The Index offers a unique insight into how prosperity is forming and changing across the world.


Highlights of the Legatum Prosperity Index 2017:

Global prosperity at a record high:

  • World prosperity increased in 2017 and now sits at its highest level in the last decade. It is now 2.6% higher than in 2007.
  • Furthermore, prosperity growth has been faster from 2012 to 2017 than it was from 2007 to 2012.
  • However, the gap between the highest and lowest scores in the Index has increased for five straight years and the spread between nations is growing, indicating that while prosperity as a whole may be increasing, not all countries are yet benefiting from the increase.

iastoppers 2017 Legatum Prosperity Index

Asia-Pacific makes the greatest gains:

  • While prosperity improved around the world in 2017, no region grew as fast as Asia-Pacific.
  • Gains came through a fast-improving Business Environment, especially in the population centres of India (100th), China (90th), Pakistan (137th) and Indonesia (59th).
  • It is now easier to access credit, and intellectual property rights have improved.
  • The gap between China and India’s prosperity has narrowed by four ranks since 2016 and to quarter of what it was in 2012.

India ranks 100 in global prosperity index iastoppers

Improved government accountability:

  • Every region in the world improved in Governance in 2017, with Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa rising fastest.
  • Across the world judiciaries became more independent from state interference and the process of challenging governmental regulation became easier.
  • People also became more confident in the outcome of elections.

iastoppers 2017 Legatum Prosperity Index3

Decreasing Safety and Security in the MENA region:

  • Despite gains in Social Capital and a strengthening Business Environment, overall prosperity in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has suffered in recent years through worsening Safety and Security.
  • Casualties from both war and terrorism have increased, along with a rise in state-sponsored violence.

iastoppers 2017 Legatum Prosperity Index4

Significance of this rankings for India:

  • The rising trend in India’s prosperity is significant in view of fact that India registered lower economic growth following demonetisation and implementation of goods and services tax (GST) reform in 2017.
[Ref: Times of India, Times Now, Prosperity]


DCI and NHAI sign MoU to facilitate supply of sand for highways construction work

An MoU was signed between Dredging Corporation of India (DCI) and National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) for facilitating the supply of sand for highways construction work.


  • As per the MoU, business intermediaries will ship and store this sand at various ports in India and market it in India.
  • NHAI will facilitate the process by displaying the availability of sand at various stockyards at the ports.

Significance of the MoU:

  • Concessionaires working on highways projects have been facing a shortage of sand at many sites. The MoU aims to fill this gap by facilitating the availability of sand for these concessionaires.

Dredging Corporation of India (DCI):


  • DCI is Indian Government Miniratna undertaking engaged in business of dredging.
  • Established in 1976, DCI reports to the Ministry of Shipping.
  • It is headquartered at Visakhapatnam and has project offices at many seaports in India.
  • DCI is involved in maintenance dredging, capital dredging, beach nourishment, land reclamation, shallow water dredging, Project Management consultancy and Marine construction.
  • It also occasionally dredges at foreign seaports in countries such as Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Dubai.
[Ref: PIB]


Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

UN warns of severe health risks from electronic/electrical waste in India

In its latest report- Global E-waste Monitor 2017, the UN has warned about the health and environmental dangers from the processing of e-waste — the discarded electronic and electrical material — by the informal sector in India without proper safeguards.


  • The report is a collaborative effort of the United Nations University (UNU), the International Telecommunication Union and the International Solid Waste Association.

Highlights of the Global E-waste Monitor 2017 report:

  • The amounts of e-waste continue to grow, while too little is recycled. By 2016, the world generated 44.7 million metric tonnes of e-waste and only 20 percent was recycled through appropriate channels. In 2016, China was the top e-waste producer in the world, generating 7.2 Mt.

India related facts:

  • According to the report, severe health risks and environmental damage are “widespread” in India due to “very low” literacy levels of the country’s over one million people involved in manual e-waste recycling operations.
  • In the Southern and South-Eastern Asia region, India plays an important role in the domestic generation of e-waste (2 Mt in 2016) due to the large population, but the country also imports from developed countries.
  • India’s electronics industry is one of the world’s fastest growing industries and plays an “important role” in the domestic generation of e-waste, producing 2 metric tonnes (Mt) in 2016.
  • The formal e-waste recycling sector in India is currently being developed in major cities.
  • However, informal recycling operations have been in place for a long time, with over 1 million poor people in India involved in manual recycling operations. Most of these people have very low literacy levels with little awareness of the dangers of the operations

E-waste legislation in India:

  • India has had the e-waste rules in effect since 2011.
  • The rule mandates producers to be responsible for the collection and financing of systems according to the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) concept.

Where did India go wrong?

  • Majority of the brands operating in India do not have a tangible EPR in place for taking back or managing their end of life electrical and electronic equipment (EEE).
  • Customer care representatives do not have inkling about any take back or recycling programme and even if they have set up collection centres, they are simply not enough for a geographically vast country like India.
  • India being a vast country, setting up collection mechanism is a big challenge. If any of the brands try individually to reach out to all corners of the country, it will economically not be sustainable or feasible.
  • Another major question in e-waste management in India is how to include thousands of producers and importers under the ambit of regulation.

Way ahead:

  • Looking ahead, the report said that the problem could become more acute with cheaper cell phones and other equipment becoming available. This means that more people will be able to afford purchasing new equipment, and that more equipment will eventually be discarded. Therefore, there is need for developing systems to safely handle the e-waste and recycle it.
[Ref: Economic Times, UN, Indian Express, Down To Earth]


Amarnath cave shrine not a silent zone, NGT clarifies

Following protests over its decision, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) clarified it has not declared a “silence zone” at the Amarnath cave shrine in the south Kashmir Himalayas.


What was the issue?

  • In a bid to preserve the eco- sensitive Amarnath cave shrine in south Kashmir Himalayas, the National Green Tribunal has declared it a “silence zone” and prohibited religious offerings beyond the entry point.
  • The NGT’s directions were followed by protests which termed it as a “Tughlaki fatwa” (whimsical whip).

What was the intention behind the NGT directions?

The Amarnath cave shrine is considered to be one of the holiest in Hinduism. The cave itself is covered with snow most of the year except for a short period of time in summer when it is open for pilgrims. The Amarnath cave is located in a delicate ecosystem.

  • The directions would make the Amarnath Yatra safe and convenient for the devotees. This would protect the shrine from degradation and ensure it is protected for the coming generations.
  • Declaring the area around the Amarnat cave shrine a “silence zone” would be helpful in preventing avalanches and maintaining its pristine nature.
[Ref: The Hindu]


Bilateral & International Relations

Pakistan files counter in ICJ

Pakistan has rejected India’s plea for consular access to death row prisoner Kulbhushan Jadhav at the ICJ, claiming that New Delhi wants the access to get the information gathered by its “spy”.


  • In its counter-memorial submitted to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Pakistan said the provision of such an access under the Vienna Convention is only for legitimate visitors and not for spies.
  • India, however, maintains that Jadhav was kidnapped from Iran where he had business interests after retiring from the Navy.

About International Court of Justice (ICJ):

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations (UN).

ias toppers International Court of Justice

  • It was established in June 1945 by the Charter of the United Nations and began work in April 1946.
  • The seat of the Court is at the Peace Palace in The Hague (Netherlands).
  • Of the six principal organs of the United Nations, it is the only one not located in New York (United States of America).
  • Its official languages are English and French.


  • The Court is composed of 15 judges, who are elected for terms of office of nine years by the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council. It is assisted by a Registry, its administrative organ.
  • The 15 judges of the Court are distributed as per the regions: three from Africa, two from Latin America and Caribbean, three from Asia, five from Western Europe and other states and two from Eastern Europe.

Role of the court:

  • The Court’s role is to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by States and to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by authorized United Nations organs and specialized agencies.

Qualifications of ICJ judges:

  • A judge should have a high moral character.
  • A judge should fit to the qualifications of appointment of highest judicial officers as prescribed by their respective states or
  • A judge should be a juriconsult of recognized competence in international law.


  • As stated in the UN Charter, all 193 UN members are automatically parties to the Court’s statute. Non-UN members may also become parties to the Court’s statute.
  • Once a state is a party to the Court’s statute, it is entitled to participate in cases before the Court.
  • However, being a party to the statute does not automatically give the Court jurisdiction over disputes involving those parties.

Nature of judgements:

  • Its judgments have binding force and are without appeal for the parties concerned.
[Ref: The Hindu]


Sri Lanka formally hands over Hambantota Port to Chinese firms on 99-Year Lease

Sri Lanka has formally handed over its southern strategic port of Hambantota to China on 99-year lease.


About Hambantota:

  • Hambantota is the main town in Hambantota District, Southern Province, Sri Lanka.
  • Hambantota is right in the middle of vital energy supply lines in the Indian Ocean, connecting the Middle East and East Asia.
  • This underdeveloped area was hit hard by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and is underwent a number of major development projects including the construction of a new sea port and international airport.



  • Sri Lanka, in July 2017, cleared a revised deal for the Chinese-built port in Hambantota. The modified agreement is believed to be more profitable to Sri Lanka and also addresses security concerns raised by other countries.
  • As per the deal, while the Chinese would manage port operations, no naval ship, including Chinese ones, can call at Hambantota without Sri Lanka’s permission.

Significance of Port

  • For China, Hambantota port is linchpin of its One Belt One Road project, which aims to build new Silk Road of trade routes between China and more than 60 countries in Asia, Africa, Middle East and Europe.
  • That project is underpinned by network of harbours across world that has put China in position to challenge US as the world’s most important maritime superpower. Other similar developments in region include Gwadar port in Pakistan, which is centrepiece of $55 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

India’s concerns:

  • The Hambantota port is part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. India’s apprehensions about the apparently growing Chinese presence in the island are well known, given the two countries’ competing strategic interests in the island. 
  • Chinese control of Hambantota, which is part of its modern-day “Silk Route” across Asia and beyond, as well as a plan to acquire 15,000 acres (23 sq miles) to develop an industrial zone next door, had raised fears that it could also be used for Chinese naval vessels.
[Ref: The Hindu, Times of India]


India votes against Buenos Aires Declaration on Women and Trade

At the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires in Argentina, 119 of the 164 members of the agency backed a non-binding declaration that sought women’s economic empowerment by speedily removing barriers to trade.


  • However, India voted against a declaration of the World Trade Organisation that supported gender equality in trade.

What is Buenos Aires Declaration on Women and Trade?

  • The Buenos Aires Women and Trade Declaration was spearheaded by the governments of Iceland and Sierra Leone, as well as the International Trade Centre.
  • It stemmed from efforts made by the Trade Impact Group of the International Gender Champions, a leadership network that brings female and male decision-makers together to break down gender barriers.
  • United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) participated in the conception and drafting of the declaration through the Trade Impact Group of the International Gender Champions initiative, and provided extensive support for its adoption.

Significance of this declaration:

  • Actions outlined in the Declaration will ultimately boost economic growth worldwide and provide more and better paid jobs for women.
  • These actions will also contribute to UN Global Development Goals, including the Sustainable Development Goal to achieve gender equality through the empowerment of women and girls (SDG 5).

Why India voted against?

  • India, an influential WTO member, was among the minority group that chose not to endorse the move saying that while it supports gender equality, gender is not a trade-related subject.
  • India argued that developed countries could use their high standards of gender equity to curb exports from the developing world, but also indirectly restrict developing countries from incentivising their women citizens as part of measures to address developmental challenges.
  • India said gender-related concerns should be discussed at appropriate fora, and that this precedent would bring in other non-trade subjects, such as labour and environment standards, into the WTO’s purview.

Other criticism:

  • An alliance of more than 160 women’s rights and allied organisations criticised the declaration.
  • They had called on member nations not to adopt it as they said the declaration failed to “address the adverse impact of WTO rules on women and instead appears to be designed to mask the failures of the WTO and its role in deepening inequality and exploitation”.

Background: Women in Trade

  • Currently, many women worldwide stand on the sidelines of the economy. While women comprise about half of the global population, they generate only 37% of gross domestic product (GDP) and run only about a third of small and medium-sized enterprises.
  • In some developing countries, female business ownership can dip as low as 3-6%. An International Trade Centre survey in 20 countries found that just one in five exporting companies is owned by women.
  • In more than 155 countries, there is at least one law impeding economic opportunities for women.
  • No country has managed to close the gender gap on economic participation and opportunity; progress is so slow it would take, at the current rate, 170 years to reach gender equality.
  • It is also apparent that international trade and trade agreements affect women and men differently.
[Ref: The Hindu, The FINANCIAL]


Defence & Security Issues

Scorpene-class submarine Kalvari inducted into Navy

India’s first modern conventional submarine, INS Kalvari, was inducted into the Navy, a first in almost two decades.


Features of INS Kalvari:

  • INS Kalvari is a class of diesel-electric attack submarine. These submarines are based on the Scorpene-class submarine being built for the Indian Navy.
  • Kalvari is named after a deep-sea tiger shark. The Scorpene is part of the ambitious Project 75 of Indian Navy’s submarine programme.
  • While INS Kalvari is designed by French naval defence and energy company DCNS, they are being manufactured by Mazagon Dock Limited in Mumbai.
  • All six Kalvari class submarines being built in India will be equipped with anti-ship missiles.

Scorpene-class submarine Kalvari iastoppers

  • It is stealth submarine difficult to be detected by the enemy and is designed to operate in all theatres including the tropics.
  • It can undertake various operations including multifarious warfare, Anti-submarine warfare, Intelligence gathering, mine laying, area surveillance etc.
  • It can launch attack on the enemy using precision guided weapons and attack can be launched from underwater or on surface.
  • It can launch attack on the enemy using precision guided weapons and attack can be launched from underwater or on surface.
  • These missiles will provide the submarines the ability to neutralise surface threats at extended ranges and boost India’s maritime security.
[Ref: The Hindu, Economic Times]


Science & Technology

Bharti Airtel launches VoLTE services in Chennai

Telecom major Bharti Airtel, as part of expanding its services, has launched Voice over Long Term Evolution (VoLTE) facility for its customers in Chennai.


  • Airtel VoLTE works over 4G services that will enable customers across the city to enjoy HD quality voice calls with faster call set up time.

All you wanted to know about VoLTE:

What is VoLTE technology?

VoLTE is an Internet Protocol Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) specification which enables a variety of services to operate seamlessly on the network rather than having to switch to different applications for voice or video.


  • VoLTE is a technology update to the LTE protocol used by mobile phone networks. Under LTE, the infrastructure of telecom players only allows transmission of data while voice calls are routed to their older 2G or 3G networks. This is why, under LTE, you cannot access your 4G data services while on a call. This leads to problems such as slow internet speeds and poor voice clarity.
  • VoLTE allows voice calls to be ‘packaged’ and carried through LTE networks. This would mean 4G data accessibility even during calls.


Significance of VoLTE:

  • If VoLTE becomes a reality, it could enable call quality that is much superior to the previous networks.
  • Apart from high definition voice quality, it can also provide improved coverage.
  • VoLTE provides a more efficient use of spectrum than traditional voice and increases handset battery life.
  • VoLTE ensures that video services are fully interoperable across the operator community, just as voice services are, as demand for video calls grows.
  • Since VoLTE counts voice calls as data usage, your billing will be in terms of data consumption rather than minutes of usage.

VoLTE revolution in India:

  • Indian telecom players are battling tooth and nail to retain their competitive position in the market and VoLTE (Voice over Long Term Evolution) is their new mantra.
  • It promises faster, better and wider data connectivity. India is witnessing a VoLTE revolution thanks to the competition stirred up by Reliance Jio.

Way ahead:

  • In India, mobile phones and telecom operators have adapted to LTE networks, faster than to 3G and are preparing to launch VoLTE services. But not all players may be able to immediately implement this mainly due to costs and complexity in infrastructure.
  • On the downside, this service might be limited to mobile phones that are equipped with software to allow VoLTE function. There might be call drops in the initial stages of implementation.
[Ref: The Hindu, Economic Times, Business Line]


Key Facts for Prelims

Rajasthan becomes first in country to offer e-mail IDs in Hindi


  • Rajasthan has become the first state in India to launch free email addresses in Hindi for its residents.
  • The facility will be available at name@rajasthan.bharat (in Devanagari script).
  • The initiative aims to ensure maximum participation of people towards e-governance and ensure that maximum government facilities are available in vernacular language.
  • The facility will lead to millions of new users who are not comfortable with English e-mail ids.


Indian Railways E-Procurement System (IREPS)


  • It is an online bill tracking system for vendors and contractors.
  • It was recently launched by the Union Ministry of Railways.
  • IREPS aims to enhance transparency in the processing and settlement of bills by increasing use of information technology.
  • It will help contractors and vendors of Indian Railways to track status of their bills.


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